Critical legislation is moving through the Congress that will have a direct impact on the continued efforts of Everglades protection.
Congress is in the midst of considering the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). This legislation is vital—not only to America’s Everglades, but also for many water priorities all across the nation. WRDA is how Congress gives approval for projects that will restore the Everglades. In 2000, the WRDA legislation approved the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the over-arching blueprint for restoring America’s Everglades. Now, Congress must authorized the individual projects that are part of the larger restoration plan that are ready to go. The bill that passed the Senate in May of 2013 includes four projects: the C-43 Reservoir Project along the Caloosahatchee River, Broward County Water Preserve, Biscayne Bay Coastal Wetlands Project and the C-111 Spreader Canal Western Project.
In the coming months, the U.S. House of Representatives will introduce a new version of WRDA; it is the Foundation’s hope that the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) is included. The task of ensuring the inclusion of CEPP in the next WRDA bill relies solely upon the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
(Related news: Click here to view the latest Everglades Foundation CEPP fact sheet. )
The SFWMD and the USACE played key roles in the passage and execution of the historic Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan in 2000 that was supported by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.
Over the last 13 years, Florida and Washington have worked to move restoration steadily forward, but this process has reached a critical juncture: in a recent assessment of the state of the Everglades ecosystem, the National Academy of Science (NAS) reported that the Everglades, a World Heritage Site, is in major need of additional water.
This is a direct result of the loss of millions of gallons of water each year that are discharged to the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean via two major South Florida estuaries. The reason for these discharges links back to the seasonally reoccurring themes of lack of water storage during the Florida wet season, and the inability to move enough water southward through the ecosystem during the dry season.
CEPP is the answer to providing the necessary infrastructure to move, clean and provide water to the central Everglades. But more importantly, CEPP provides critical water flow needed by Everglades National Park, colloquially known as “Everglades National Parched” by members of the Florida environmental community.
Next month, the state will move one step closer to finalizing CEPP, as the South Florida Water Management District becomes the “local sponsor” of the project and authorizes its support. Furthering CEPP’s position in the governmental process, the project will then be sent to Congress.
The action taken by the SFWMD sends a powerful message that the 13-year federal/state partnership is strong, and that the protection of America’s Everglades remains a priority.
Written by Eric Eikenberg. Photos by Jessica Hodder.